Testing soil samples - Frances Gilchrist, left, pours a sample into a beaker as Sherry Locklear, middle, and Tracy Hyman assist.
When hands-on science results in dirty hands, that's when the fun and education begin.
Sixteen middle and high school science teachers participated in an environmental science education workshop in July on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The weeklong program, called GLOBE, supports science education by training teachers how to use hands-on science in their classrooms.
The workshop was the first of several professional development activities to be offered through UNCP as part of a North Carolina Quest grant received earlier this year.
Day three of the workshop found teachers discovering the scientific properties of dirt. Dirty hands aside, the teachers said the program is helpful.
"Besides teaching us a lot of stuff we can use in the classroom, we get a lot of resources too," said Dan Geiger, a science teacher at Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville.
"My students are really going to have fun with this," said Thomas Burgess of West Hoke Middle School. "They will enjoy getting their hands dirty."
Geiger said keeping up with new science is difficult for teachers, and programs to update skills are important.
"Scientific knowledge is doubling something like every five years, and as a teacher, it is like trying to give students a drink through a fire hose," Geiger said.
Teachers as Students - Dan Geiger, left, looks on as his lab partner Thomas Burgess pours a solution.
GLOBE offers teachers some fun and educational projects that teach students the scientific process, or how to learn science by doing science, said Rachel McBroom, UNCP's science education coordinator and campus GLOBE coordinator.
"GLOBE is about students learning science by doing science; not just being talked to about science" McBroom said.
Karen Gerringer, NC Quest coordinator for the UNC Center for School Leadership Development, said the program has touched more than a million students at 12,000 schools in over 100 countries.
"There are more than 20,000 GLOBE trained teachers," Gerringer said. "It helps science teachers with teaching skills, and it gives them the resources to do it."
"This is a hands-on program, but it is aligned with the North Carolina standard course of study too," she said.
Besides discovering the pH, density and fertility of soil, there were sections on Global Positioning Systems, meteorology, hydrology and more. Scientific inquiry - taking measurements using scientific equipment, analyzing data, using the Internet - were all part of this "real science" program.
"The GLOBE program is viewed as a constructivist approach or an example of 'anchored' instruction," McBroom said. "In this approach, students are placed in situations in which inquiry and problem solving occurs."
An NC Quest "Improving the Teacher Quality" grant paid participants a stipend, and teachers also received continuing education units for the 30-hour workshop. The program was funded by a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the University of North Carolina Division of University-School programs.